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Ketanji Brown Jackson is a federal judge on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. She was nominated by President Barack Obama in May 2012 and confirmed by the Senate in December 2012. Prior to her appointment, she served as a Commissioner on the United States Sentencing Commission from October 2009 to December 2012.

Early Life and Education

Ketanji Brown Jackson was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on August 11, 1966. Her father, Karl Brown, was a police officer, and her mother, Linda (née Jones), was a schoolteacher. She has two older sisters. Jackson’s parents divorced when she was eight years old; she subsequently lived with her mother and sisters in the Roxbury section of Boston.

Jackson attended public schools in Boston, graduating from Jeremiah E. Burke High School in 1984. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1988 from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, where she majored in government and was a member of the first class of students to graduate from the University’s College of Social Studies. She then attended Harvard Law School, where she earned a Juris Doctor degree in 1991.

Professional Career

After law school, Jackson served as a law clerk to Judge Henry J. Friendly of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 1991 to 1992 and to Justice Thurgood Marshall of the Supreme Court of the United States during the Court’s October 1992 Term.

From 1993 to 1999, Jackson was an Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Columbia, serving first in the Misdemeanor Trial Section and then in the Felony Trial Section. In 1999, she left the U.S. Attorney’s Office to enter private practice as a litigator at Hogan & Hartson (now Hogan Lovells).

Judicial Service

On May 18, 2012, President Obama nominated Jackson to serve as a Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, to the seat vacated by James Robertson, who took senior status on December 31, 2011. Her nomination was reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 19, 2012, and she received her commission on December 21, 2012. She became the first black woman to serve as a Judge of that court.

Jackson served as Chief Judge of the District Court from March 1, 2016 until February 28, 2019.

On October 11, 2019 President Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate Jackson to be United States Circuit Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. On November 21, 2019, her nomination was sent to the United States Senate. Her nomination is currently pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Jackson is a member of The American Law Institute and from 2013 to 2016 served as a Member-at-Large of the ALI Council. In May 2017, she was elected to serve as a Reporter for the ALI’s Restatement of Employment Law project. She has also served on the Adjudicative Rules Committee of the Administrative Conference of the United States.

Reactions to Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Election to the Supreme Court

Critics have noted that Jackson’s election could shift the ideological balance of the Court. Some have praised Jackson as a competent and qualified jurist, while others have voiced concern about her judicial philosophy.

Challenges Ketanji Brown Jackson Faces as a Supreme Court Justice

As a Supreme Court Justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson will face the challenge of interpreting the law in a way that is consistent with the Constitution and applicable to the current day. She will also be tasked with maintaining the public’s trust in the Court by ensuring that it remains an impartial and independent institution.

Ketanji Brown Jackson is a highly qualified and experienced jurist who has been elected to the Supreme Court. She will face challenges as a Justice, but her appointment represents a significant step forward for diversity on the Court.

Scott Larson